VIOLENCE, GUNS, FEELINGS, AND THE SECOND AMENDMENT
If we can just eliminate guns, murders will drop.
That’s essentially what Senator Larry Martin was arguing last week. But he’s not alone. It’s a knee-jerk reaction many politicians unthinkingly experience.
The arguments voiced in the debate in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting over a new bill dealing with South Carolina’s problems with domestic violence are a stark illustration.
South Carolina is chronically at the worst end of one national ranking after another. And domestic violence does not break that unhappy trend. Depending on whose statistics you read, South Carolina ranks either at or near the top nationally in the number of deaths by domestic violence. Sen. Larry Martin, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told his committee last week that there were 46 deaths by domestic violence in South Carolina in 2013. And of those, Senator Martin said, 36 were gun-related.
Forty-six murders by a household member. That is terrible. The direct repercussions to the survivors will last a lifetime. Secondary effects, I suspect, will be generational.
There is something terrible wrong, even evil, with a man or women who resorts to murder to resolve any problem, whether domestic or not.
But here’s the thing. Is a murder any less evil because it was committed without a gun? I’m appalled by all forty-six murders. Not just the ones that were gun-related.
Would there have been fewer murders had the murderer not had access to a gun? That’s what Sen. Martin’s arguments in last week’s Judiciary Committee imply. I suppose we’ll never know for sure. But I suspect when one is intent on murder, any weapon will do. A gun, a knife, a hammer, a rope, hands tightly gripped around the victim’s neck – any of these will do it.
What Sen. Martin and others seem to ignore are the unintended consequences of taking away someone’s gun. A firearm is the great equalizer; often it’s only thing that stands between a physically weaker victim and the would-be criminal.
The unintended consequence of a move to eliminate guns is not less violence, but more. Multiple academic studies have shown that where guns abound, death and violence are lower. The old adage that “An armed society is a polite society” is supported by the numbers. Estimates of defensive gun use vary widely, from a low of 55,000 to a high of 2.5 million across the nation annually. But even if the number of defensive gun uses is at the absolute minimum estimate, that’s still a lot of lives saved and violence stopped.
But never mind. These “gun grabbers” turn a blind eye to the death and violence prevented by guns. This new bill proposed by Sen. Martin and others will bar anyone convicted of “criminal domestic violence” or CDV from possessing a firearm. On its surface, it sounds reasonable to many. But, as they say, the devil is in the details.
The way the bill is currently written casts an extremely wide net. If passed, it will change the definition of CDV to include many slight problems not traditionally considered violence at all. Then it will require that anyone convicted of this new definition of CDV to give up their firearms. A heated argument or any situation where one felt afraid or where injury is “likely to result” can result in a CDV conviction. Note that no actual injury or violence needs to have occurred to get a conviction for Criminal Domestic Violence.
This is especially dangerous considering the right not to prosecute is prohibited in cases of suspected CDV in South Carolina. That means that once the state gets involved, you cannot decide “not to prosecute” a case against your spouse. Just imagine a nosey neighbor calls the police in response to a yelling match between you and your spouse. Once the police arrive, it may be too late to stop a CDV conviction for you or your spouse, even after cooler heads prevail. Say good bye to your self-defense firearms if that happens.
A vindictive ex could wreak havoc with your right to self-defense if the proposed law passes. It’s even conceivable that one who is intent on murdering his or her ex could use this new CDV law to first disarm his intended victim before committing the heinous act.
Let me explain.
Making an unwanted phone call that makes the receiver feel “fear” is specifically included in the list of items that can get you a conviction of third-degree CDV. No actual violence need have occurred. The conviction is all based on what a lawyer can convince a judge about the supposed victim’s feelings regarding a phone call. Was it unwanted, and did it create fear?
If a jealous ex-husband wanted to kill his ex-wife, but hasn’t yet for fear of her self-defense firearms, he could conceivably use this new law, if passed, to claim calls from her are unwanted and that she had threatened to use her gun to kill him.
With a slick lawyer and an anti-gun judge, it’s not inconceivable that the ex-wife would be disarmed, clearing the way for her to be a murder victim.
When removing one’s right to keep and bear arms, we must be careful and deliberate. There are already laws on the books that prevent felons and perpetrators of domestic violence from possessing a firearm. Adding a new South Carolina law to expand that prohibition, as this one does, is unnecessary and irresponsible.
The real problem is not the gun, but the sickened state of mind of one who will use violence or even commit murder to resolve a domestic dispute. That is the problem that needs to be addressed. Until it is, taking away one tool that may be used by the aggressor isn’t going to make anyone safer. Indeed, it may make life for the intended victim much more dangerous.
Talbert Black Jr. is a senior software engineer who lives in Lexington County. He is the state coordinator for S.C.’s Campaign for Liberty and keeps tabs on the Legislature regarding transparency and accountability matters.